Monday, March 25, 2013

To Whisper Her Name by Tamera Alexander

Set at Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville, an actual historic Southern Plantation, To Whisper Her Name tells the story of the destitute young widow Olivia Aberdeen who has been taken in by her mother's friends, the Hardings. The plantation itself is adjusting to life after the Civil War.  Old southern sentiments still reign strong, but many of the former slaves remain, now as paid servants and farm hands.  When Ridley Cooper, a South Carolina native, comes seeking a job in the famous horse stables, readers will already know the connection between him and former slave Robert Green and their shared secret.  His work ethic quickly earns the trust of plantation owner, General Harding; his bold, humorous charm attracts Olivia's attention despite her vows not to become involved. While Ridley tries to capture for himself the special horse handling gift Old Bob has, his secret past hangs over his success.  What would happen if the plantation and its neighbors knew his true past?

Another historical romance?  Yes, but I can confidently say this title offers so much more.  We get an authentic look at the post-war Southern economy and the slowly changing social mores. I'm sure that female readers will cringe, as I did, when we realize that a young widow like Olivia was at that time completely dependent on the mercy of others.   Throughout, author Alexander  has crafted complex, multi-layered characters.  Both Olivia and the general's wife Elizabeth seemingly accept the status quo, the rigid black vs. white divisions of their society, at the same time they are boldly making secret decisions to change things.  The general could easily be a flat, stereotypical character, but Alexander has instead crafted a strong-willed man, but one who has the wisdom to to occasionally bend. Perhaps Alexander worked extra hard to make him realistic because he is based on the real General Harding, a Nashville giant in the horse breeding world.  As the big horse auction approaches, Olivia, Ridley, and even minor characters like Harding daughter Mary reach out to overcome fears and weaknesses.  In the end, this is a story about taking risks, reaching out with trust and finding faith.    The attention to detail is intense and reminds me of Liz Curtis Higgs's novels.  That means that the novel is longer than most (473 pages) and reads slower than much Christian fiction, but you'll enjoy your time at Belle Meade.  I also recommend you check out Tamara Alexander's website for news about her other books and future writings.  I see that through April 1 she has specials on ebooks.


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